Hi all, I'm about to take the plunge... Looking for input on a new system.
Planning on using Intellijel 7U 104HP case. Also have newest version monome 128 and will add arc 4 when I can find one... Also plan on using seaboard and custom controller I'm building w/ similar input values similar to seaboard. Plan on having it output CV values directly.
Here's what I have so far, what's missing? What's redundant? I plan on making experimental ambient... My music: http://sleeplesswaves.bandcamp.com/
Also like http://rbeny.bandcamp.com/

ModularGrid Rack


Well, first up, Intellijel's Noise Tools would also be a good contender for that tile row; you might consider dropping the USB for that, as you have a backside USB on the Intellijel 7U case. Also, I'd invert the rack...put the utility tiles + your I/O on the bottom row to get the external cables out of the way. Consider, also, finding a way to squeeze either a Digiverb or a Pedal I/O in there.

Ambient, from my experience, requires quite a bit of heavy-duty processing to get the right flavor. The Orthagonal ER-301 would be a good multi-possibility choice there and would likely allow you to take out the Clouds, which Mutable discontinued recently (someone needs to edit its listing). If you have to have the Clouds, your best bet (space saving, too) would be an 8 hp third-party version of the module, for which there's several sources right now.

Nothing here in terms of modulation sources, especially slow-duration ones. The MATHS is a good choice, plus adding a Mutable Tides would give you plenty of slow-duration modulation change with good control capabilities. And VCAs...got to have those. Intellijel's Quad VCA would play nicely in here, plus give you a 4-channel mixer for either CVs or audio in the process. You might actually consider two of those, one for each.

Two VCOs, also...not really enough. The modular I currently use for this sort of thing has three VCOs plus a VCDO, Digisound's steppable fixed-wavetable oscillator. You're going to want some spectral complexity that you're clearly moving toward, but still a good ways away from at this point. You might get closer by yanking the Just Friends and looking instead at Doepfer's Quad VCO, which just came out a bit ago; I would definitely keep the Mangroves, however, because it would provide a nice timbral contrast to the Doepfer VCOs.

Keep in mind that with ambient work, complexity is key...you want slow change with lots of possibilities. You might even consider going to a second cab here so you can have more sonic possibility while staying with the Intellijel format tiles. With the simultaneous use of a Seaboard + Monome setup, something this small-scale might actually wind up limiting the full capabilities of those controllers in tandem. But with a dual-cab rig, you can use the Monome with one for functions that're optimized for it in case #1, and the Seaboard in a likewise manner for case #2, sort of like a dual-manual for an organ...but not an organ. Means more monetary outlay, sure, but you get that back in terms of being able to make more complex, subtile, nuanced music with the instrument. Sure, it opens another can of worms, but it's a can with more potential.

Awesome, thanks so much for the detailed comments! I'm still wrapping my head around all of this and it's so valuable to hear your input. I love your idea about having two cabs for each input device, but that will take some time for me to work towards financially... I'm thinking for the time being use the laptop for the seaboard and focus on the modular for the monome?
So I put together another setup here (not sure why, but the image is wrong, click on the link to see the real setup):
ModularGrid Rack
It basically adds and tweaks things per your suggestions... At current I'd like to stay around $2000-2500 USD, and then fill things out as I go. In this case, what would you sacrifice to get the best sounding solution?

To get your image to refresh, try this: go into View Screenshot and if you see something that wasn't what you selected, then refresh that window. Should clear that up.

Anyway...had at it a bit myself. Started with flipping the case, and then...well, have a look:

ModularGrid Rack

There's definitely some changes. The Quad VCO is paired with the Quad VCA, for starters. This lets you do a lot of CVable mixing of the VCOs, creating morphing-like structures, or really most anything. Mangroves next, then a CVable wavefolder, which not only lets you morph the formants, but also the timbral quality of the Mangroves. Two attenuators to control their levels going into the Sisters VCF...and this is key, because I looked at that filter and noted that it has this extra input, CENTRE, that allows a 'lead' part to get 3db out front and be timbrally altered against the other sounds coming in via the ALL, LO, or HI inputs. The dual attenuator lets you have more control over that lead/back balance.

Then there's a Doepfer A-106-1 filter. This is actually a filter pair, based on the Korg MS-20's Sallen-Key pair, but with the sick and twisted addition of an insert in its resonance path. Hence the stuff below: a Chronoblob delay and a VERB digital reverb. Now, what came to my diseased mind was this: put the Chronoblob into the A-106-1's insert. Now, the Chronoblob ALSO has an insert...this time, in the feedback path. So the CVable VERB goes into THAT...allowing clocked delay pulsations with the added strangeness of constantly-shifting 'room' depths, with all of this being constantly inline to alter the dual filter's behavior. Tres ambient! Of course, there's plenty of other ways to (ab)use those, too...

ER-301 is above the other set of VCAs, next to a little 4-in stereo mixer, which is next to the Clouds. This puts the Clouds in place to easily process/mangle incoming audio OR the synth's sounds themselves, and all of this can be sent up and thru the ER-301 for more processing mayhem. The I/O is right below in the tile row, also, so the right end of the build can do a lot of 'spiderwebbing' amongst all of these for pretty infinite possibilities of subpatching for sonic alteration.

Bottom (now) tile row. Added the uMIDI 1U because the Intellijel cab's USB port (on the backplane) directly links to that for MIDI-over-USB use. Above this are your Monome modules, and this puts all incoming control signals at the lower left...nice and cohesive. Modulation/clocking is next to this, with the corresponding tile below the Tides and MATHS so everything's all in place to work as a modulation subpatch team. The row went to the bottom, also, to get your external cable runs below and away from your patchwork to avoid confusion. It also puts the tile controls close at hand to your controller for fast 'nuance' adjustment.

Sole flaw here is that I wound up being forced to drop the multiple. However, you might find that using stackable cables and/or inline mult modules work even better in this small a rig.

Downside of all of this: $5,668, modules alone. Definitely above the $2500 line, but it gives you something of a point to aim for, money-wise, even if the module compliment might change. But this isn't a bad aiming point, IMHO...definitely feels like an ambient 'instrument'.

Whatcha think?

What do you think of the Quadnic in place of the Doepfer Quad VCO?

Also, what about the Erica Synths Pico DSP in place of the verb module?

Some people are also recommending I ditch the Monome White Whale and Meadow Physics b/c the Ansible has similar functionality, and it would free some space for more mixers, but my thought was running multiple concurrent patterns on the 4 monome modules. I currently run 6 patterns or more simultaneously in MaxMSP...


Actually, both ideas there work...I keep forgetting that Quadnic module, and I ought not to. It's definitely a different character than the analog-source Doepfer, comes in considerably cheaper (by $200!) and saves 6 hp of space. Downside, though, is that you lose individual modulation and sync patchpoints. The other similar solution that seems to be viable gets more pricey, though: a pair of Klavis Twin Waves. $498 for two, but they fit in 16 hp and have way more features than either the Quadnic or the Doepfer combined. It's almost Braids-ish, given the algorithm feature set. If the price weren't a barrier, honestly, I'd go in that direction. As for the Pico DSP, yeah, that could work as well, but if you're going to use it for that insert trick make sure it can do a decent job on a mono output. Of course, that module also need not be a effect processor; you could do some twisted things with waveshaping in that Chronoblob feedback loop, so that every delay iteration keeps getting more distorted and bent out of shape. A ring modulator would be neat as well, but you'd need a carrier source...even so, consider a delay in which the iterations get more and more clangorous. Lots of possibilities exist...

As for the MAX situation...there might be a solution in MAX that can emulate the additional Monome modules. MAX is so open-ended that if you're deep into it, there'll almost certainly be a way around any hardware limit. Or, explore some of the Expert Sleepers stuff to get the MAX patterns over USB (or even ADAT optical) to their hardware, piping the MAX patterns through Silent Way. At the very least, ES's stuff saves space and is equally open-ended as Monome's modules.